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Reforms recommended: Milestones

The history of recommendations for police reforms in India is over a 100 years old. From the colonial period to post-independence to the present day, many commissions have been set up to recommend changes on a wide range of issues related to policing and police reform. In spite of their many recommendations, policing remains colonial in many respects and has not kept up with democratic ideals and current needs.

BRITISH ERA (1855–1947)

1855: First enquiry into police torture

A three-member commission was appointed to inquire into alleged cases of torture in the Madras Presidency

1860: First Police Commission set up

The Police Act, 1861, was based on a draft put forward by the 1860 committee. It was authoritarian in nature, coming as it did in the aftermath of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. This act remains in force at the Centre even today. Under this act:

  • The state government controls the police force. The Chief or Home Minister chooses the Commissioner of Police.
  • The police is largely unaccountable to civil society or other democratic institutions, directly.
  • Officers who resist political interference are often subject to frequent transfers.


Successive governments at the Centre have taken many initiatives by constituting expert commissions and working groups on police reform. But there has been no sustained implementation of their recommendations.

1950: A Sovereign Democratic Republic

The Constitution of India established a sovereign democratic republic with a prominent Bill of Fundamental Rights guaranteed to all citizens.

1958–1970: State Government Initiatives

From 1958 to 1971, many state governments set up police commissions to examine police problems and suggest recommendations to improve policing. The terms of reference, though slightly varied for different commissions, covered some common ground. The focus was generally on meeting the shortage of resources and improving matters within the existing set-up.


The Santhanam Committee on Corruption was appointed. The Central Vigilance Commission was also set up based on this committee's recommendations.


The Working Group on Police Reforms was set up by the Administrative Reforms Commission. It argued vehemently for abolishing the control district magistrates wielded over the district police.


The Gore Committee on Police Training examined the state of police training in the country and made recommendations to improve its quality.


The Shah Commission looked into excesses committed on citizens by the police and other administrative during the Emergency (1975–77). The appointment of the National Police Commission was a fallout of the Shah Commission's report

1977–1981: National Police Commission (NPC)

This commission looked at ways in which the police could be made accountable to democratic institutions. The NPC came out with eight reports that examined the police as a law enforcement agency and as an institution meant to protect citizens' rights.

1993: National Human Rights Commission

The National Human Rights Commission was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act to attend to citizens' complaints about alleged violation of rights and provide relief in genuine cases.

1996: Prakash Singh And Others Vs The Union of India and Others

Former Director General of Police, Prakash Singh, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court asking for action to be taken on the National Police Commission's recommendations and introduce reform measures across India. In the course of the 10-year-long proceedings, the court set up various committees.

1998: Ribeiro Committee

Headed by J. F. Ribeiro IPS (Retd), this committee produced two reports. The key recommendations were:

  • Separate law and order from investigative functions.
  • Set up district-level bodies to examine police excesses.
  • Set up state-level commissions to examine police performance.
  • Replace The Police Act, 1861.

Read more about the Ribeiro Committee reports here

2000: Padmanabhaiah Committee

Headed by former Union Home Secretary K. Padmanabaiah, this committee made recommendations along the same lines as the Ribeiro Committee with some additional provisions:

  • Introduce community policing
  • Increase the recruitment of sub-inspectors

Read more about the Padmanabhaiah Committee report here

2004: Review Committee of Officers

HeadedThe Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a Review Committee of Officers, which culled out 49 common recommendations from the reports of different groups and sought their minimum implementation by the states.

2005: Police Mission and Police Act Drafting Committee

At the DGPs/IGPs Conference of 2005, the Prime Minister of India announced the setting up of a 'Police Mission'. It would transform the police into an effective instrument for maintaining internal security and face up to the challenges of the 21st century. This was to be done by equipping the police with material, intellectual and organizational resources.

The government also set up the Police Act Drafting Committee under former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee to draft a new act. It submitted a Model Police Act to the government in late 2006.

Read more about the Police Act Drafting Committee report here

2006: The Supreme Court's intervention

The Supreme Court ordered the state governments to implement several reforms in the police force. On September 22, 2006, the Supreme Court delivered its judgement in the Prakash Singh case, directing the central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives to kick-start police reform. Its key measures included

  • Mid/high-ranking police officers should not be transferred more than every two years.
  • State governments cannot choose the police commissioner.
  • Separate departments must be set up for investigation and patrolling.
  • Three new authorities must be appointed in each state to prevent political interference and make the force accountable.

Read more about the Supreme Court's intervention here

2013: Justice J. S. Verma Committee

Following the gangrape and death of a young girl in December 2013, the government set up a three-member committee headed by Justice J. S. Verma, with Justice Leila Seth and former High Court Judge Gopal Subramaniam. This committee recommended amendments to the criminal law that would provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for sexual assault. It had an entire chapter devoted to police reforms.

April 2013: Criminal Law (Amendment) Act

Following the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. These amendments have brought significant changes to police procedures in dealing with victims of gender-based crimes. They have also increased the accountability of the police with respect to proper registration and investigation of crimes against women.



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